Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Made Abbey Road So Good


Abbey Road is undoubtedly one of the most famous recording studios of all time. It made a name for itself with the Fab Four – literally, when it was renamed after The Beatles album that made it famous. Then followed Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, Elton John, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The list goes on.

A recent article in The Atlantic dubbed Abbey Road ‘Pop Music’s Westminster Abbey’ – part tourist attraction, part working cathedral where all the traditional rites and rituals are still observed. In Abbey Road’s case, ‘traditional rites and rituals’ relates to music recording and technology, which has changed so much since “Come Together”.

There is a fine balance to be struck between blending aspects of old and new – even The Beatles had to contend with this hurdle. But they were all about breaking rules. This meant new and interesting sounds, and rough edges, but that’s what gave their music a human element. It simply wasn’t possible for music to be perfect, and this forced a commitment to creative choices at an earlier stage in the recording process.

One small mistake could mean scrapping an entire recording – or embracing that mistake. Today, we have modern tools and technology that iron out any imperfections, feeding our natural tendency towards continual improvement. This doesn’t always produce a better product. Brian Kehew, music engineer and co-author of Recording the Beatles, said it best: “when it comes to what people like about music, there was actually only one thing worse than these imperfections: perfection.”

Abbey Road invokes a spirit that is central to enduring work – taking risks with whatever tools you have, using a lot of skill, imagination, some serendipity, and – above all – a human touch.

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